- Concern that ruling could have implications for the business sector
- Quantum of the award appears to breach previous Supreme Court and Court of Appeal guidance on general damages
ISME, the Irish SME Association today expresses great concern at a recent High Court personal injuries award of €750,000 against a supermarket on Grand Parade in Cork. While we deeply sympathise with the victim, who sustained serious head injuries as a result of a violent criminal assault during the incident in October 2011, we fear the implications of this ruling for the retail, hospitality, entertainment and sporting sectors.
The victim was removed by security from the Centra supermarket on Grand Parade following an altercation with three other customers. These three customers followed him outside the shop, and tried to assault him on the street, when he escaped and attempted to re-enter the shop.
Store security refused him re-entry, and the victim was subjected to a violent assault by these people, one of whom was subsequently given a five-year jail sentence. The Judge considered the refusal to readmit the victim to the store to be material in his decision to find against the store.
While we have yet to see the text of the ruling by Judge Kevin Crosse in this case, we fear the potential repercussions for the owners, occupiers or operators of any premises which permit public footfall. Firstly, the quantum of the award appears to breach previous Supreme Court and Court of Appeal guidance on general damages. Secondly, the manner in which liability was fixed to the defendant because the victim was not readmitted to the shop is most peculiar. It potentially implies a duty of care to members of the general public who have entered a premises which endures in certain circumstances after they have departed the premises.
Commenting on this ISME CEO Neil McDonnell said “In order that these grey areas be cleared up, ISME is hopeful that this case will be appealed. Our concern in this case reflects the general apprehension among small business owners that they will be fixed with liability in some cases, not because they are strictly liable, but because they are insured. They are thus a good ‘mark’ for damages and legal costs that should, more appropriately, be awarded against others of lesser means.”